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Armenian opposition holds protest
Sarkisian wins presidential poll, but supporters of closest rival say it was rigged.
Last Modified: 20 Feb 2008 19:58 GMT
Levon Ter-Petrosian, the runner-up in the election, addresses thousands of protestors in Yerevan [AFP]
Around 20,000 protesters have gathered in Yerevan, Armenia's capital, complaining that Tuesday's presidential election was rigged.
 
Serzh Sarkisian, the country's prime minister, was declared the winner by Armenia's Central Election Committee.
 
The opposition said violations included ballot-stuffing, kidnapping and the beating of supporters.
The protesters walked past government buildings, including the election commission, waving flags and chanting "Go away Serzh," "Fight to the end," and "Armenia Unite!"
 
Monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said the poll "mostly" met international standards.
'Shameful'
 
Sarkosian's closest rival, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, criticised the OSCE's comments and described the election as "shameful".
 
He told the crowd "we have a precise plan and we will win".
 
The protesters congregated on the central Freedom Square on Wednesday after marching through the city.
 
Government buildings and particularly the election commission were guarded by large numbers of riot police.
 
Despite some angry exchanges and shaking of fists, the demonstration remained calm.
 
Favoured candidate
 
Sarkisian was the favoured candidate of Robert Kocharian, Armenia's president, who was obliged to stand down after two terms.
 
The prime minister took an unassailable lead with 844,088 votes, giving him 52.7 per cent of the votes counted, according to official results shown on Armenian public television.
 
Ter-Petrosyan had 344,619, or 21.5 per cent, of votes counted.
 
Since Sarkisian received over 50 per cent of the vote, he will not have to face a runoff with Ter-Petrosyan.
 
Voter turnout was 69.25 per cent, the Central Election Commission reported.
 
Ter-Petrosyan and Sarkisian's other main rival, Artur Baghdasarian, had boosted the prime minister's chances of winning the election by failing to unite ahead of the vote.

Previous elections in Armenia have been followed by days of opposition protests alleging ballot fraud.

Sarkisian has promised to pursue the policies of Kocharian.

His biggest challenges will be a simmering territorial conflict with neighbouring Azerbaijan and frozen ties with Turkey.

Source:
Agencies
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